COP 28: Air pollution from oil and gas operations can cause cancer, harm the nervous and respiratory systems, and contribute to birth defects
Biden administration took a significant step towards combating climate change on Saturday by issuing a final rule aimed at curbing methane emissions from the US oil and natural gas industry. President Joe Biden, who has prioritised climate action, seeks to bolster his environmental legacy through this initiative.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the rule, designed to substantially reduce methane and other harmful pollutants from the oil and gas sector.
The regulation emphasises the promotion of advanced methane detection technologies to improve industry practises, with anticipated benefits such as reduced hospital visits, fewer lost school days, and the prevention of deaths associated with air pollution.
Oil and gas operations are recognised as the largest industrial source of methane, a potent greenhouse gas responsible for approximately one-third of global warming emissions.
The rule, unveiled by EPA Administrator Michael Regan and White House climate adviser Ali Zaidi at the UN climate conference in the United Arab Emirates, aligns with the global priority of sharply cutting methane emissions to mitigate the impacts of climate change.
Simultaneously, the president of the climate summit disclosed that 50 oil companies, representing nearly half of global production, have committed to achieving near-zero methane emissions and ending routine flaring in their operations by 2030.
The finalised methane rule implements a proposal made by President Biden at the 2021 UN climate conference in Scotland, which was expanded a year later in Egypt. Unlike previous EPA regulations that primarily focused on new wells, this rule targets emissions from existing oil and gas wells nationwide. It also addresses smaller wells, which are often responsible for a disproportionate share of methane emissions.
Furthermore, the plan introduces a phased requirement for energy companies to eliminate routine flaring of natural gas produced by new oil wells. This comprehensive approach aims to ensure that the United States meets its commitment, along with over 100 nations, to reduce methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030 from 2020 levels.
This EPA rule is one of over 100 actions undertaken by the Biden administration to reduce methane emissions. The strategy encompasses a methane fee approved in the 2022 climate law, representing the first direct imposition of a fee on greenhouse gas emissions by the US government.
The fee, scheduled to take effect next year, can charge energy producers up to USD 1,500 per metric tonne of methane for exceeding a specified emissions threshold.
Notably, exemptions are available for companies complying with EPA standards or falling below a certain emissions threshold. The legislation also allocates USD 1.5 billion in grants and spending to assist companies and communities in enhancing monitoring, data collection, and the repair of natural gas leaks.
Leaders in the environmental and health sectors have praised the new rule, acknowledging its significance in addressing climate change and protecting public health. Despite industry calls for exemptions, the rule signifies a major stride in the United States' commitment to combating climate change and aligns with global efforts to address methane as a critical climate risk.